Part Three

Read The New River Gorge Part One here and Part Two here

The New River Gorge Bridge as seen from Bridge Buttress

In Part Two, we had just begun to explore Fayette Station, West Virginia.  Here Route 82 (one way from the north side of the Gorge and back up the other side) descends the mountain to the river then back up along the south side.  Before the New River Gorge Bridge was built, Route 82 was how the Gorge was crossed at this location.  At that time it was two way but for years now it has been limited to one way traffic.

Fayette Station is a busy place during the warm months.  It is a center of activity for raft take-outs, rock climbing, viewing the bridge and for several waterfalls which are within walking distance.  It also has a great rail fan location which I’ll get to later.

Looking track west on Main 2 as an east-bound goes through south Fayette.

On the south side you can hike up the tracks less than a mile to get to Butcher Branch.  There is a beauty of a waterfall there that is just a hundred feet or so from track side.  If you visit there you may notice a short siding.  This is still used from time to time for Maintenance Of Way equipment and perhaps a bad order car or so.  At one time this siding extended all the way down river to past the New River Gorge Bridge.  It was used for off-loading steel during the construction of the bridge.

Butcher Branch. This fall is usually running nicely even in dry times due to its connection with the old Kaymoor mine up the mountain. The old mine collects great quantities of water which continually drain into the stream.
An east-bound grain train grinds its way up the Gorge on Main 2 (south side).

If you make it as far as Butcher Branch, hike just a little farther and you will be at the old mining town of Kaymoor Bottom.  When the mine was in full production about 500 people lived here.  The old town is now fallen down and consumed by kudzu but in winter you can just make out the old yard tracks and a few foundations.  Up on the bank next to the tracks the old coke ovens still stand, two hundred in all.

Coke ovens at the ghost town of Kaymoor Bottom.
A larry car at Kaymoor Bottom rusts away.
The old machine shop at Kaymoor Bottom.
Rock climbing is a major activity in the Gorge. Seen here yours truly gives it a go.

We return to the north side and proceed track east on Main 1.  The next fifteen miles or so, from Fayette Station to Thurmond is rich in coal history and considerable remains are scattered along the way.  For the most part these are best viewed during the colder months when weeds and critters don’t get in the way.

One of my favorite activities in the Gorge has always been simply walking the rails.”

This structure sits track side just a few hundred feet track east of Fayette Station. Small portions of narrow gauge track are still in place. So far I’ve not been able to determine exactly what this was.
An east-bound passes through Fayette Station.
Located about one mile track east of Fayette Station, Fern Creek offers up this lovely track side waterfall.
Located at exactly Mile Post 403 Whitcomb’s Boulder presents a very special rail fan location. The January, 1873 edition of Scribner’s Monthly contained an illustration of this place.
One of my favorite activities in the Gorge has always been simply walking the rails. It is especially pleasant on sunny autumn days when the colors are out and the air is crisp and fresh. This location, just about ½ mile track east of Whitcomb’s Boulder, is one of my favorite stretches of rail.
During late Spring through Summer the evening light along this section is often very nice. Here we have continued another ½ mile or so eastward to a place next to the old Nuttallburg coal tipple.
Sitting trackside, the old Nuttallburg coal tipple looks good after the Park Service did some restoration work. The Park Service has expended a great deal of effort in preserving this place and it is a great place to visit. There are many foundations of buildings here, a number of coke ovens and a portion of the yard tracks are still in place. It is accessible by road.
Some of the ruins at Nuttallburg.

As you explore the Gorge don’t forget the cliff tops.  Many great overlooks are easy to get to and offer spectacular views.

Far below the Beauty Mountain overlook, a west-bound string of empties passes the old tipple at Nuttallburg. The tipple and conveyor up to the mine can be seen to the right of the front of the train.
A Beauty Mountain sunset.
Supports for a pedestrian foot bridge which once connected Nuttallburg with South Nuttallburg, also known as Brown. On the far side of the river just visible through the trees is the bridge supports for the south side.

There were once 50 towns in the Gorge, mostly small and associated with mining coal.  Most had populations of less than 500 people.  If you ever endeavor to hike in the Gorge you might wish to first read up on some of these places.  As you walk through the Gorge it is amazing to realize all the activity and just plain living that went on here, all of which is now almost entirely consumed by time and the forest.  You can read up on these places here:

http://www.wvexp.com/index.php/Category:Ghost_Towns_of_the_New_River_Gorge

Located about two miles track east from Nuttallburg is the ghost town of Caperton, West Virginia. Winter or early spring is the best time to visit as there is little undergrowth to hide things.
Caperton, West Virginia
Hundreds of coke ovens sit trackside between Caperton and Sewell, West Virginia.
The bridge at Sewell, West Virginia. Here Main 2 crosses the river to join Main 1, though it’s single track all the way to Thurmond. The south-side branch once continued from here up river to Thurmond but that was abandoned many years ago. The old south-side branch is now a road for about three miles but, beginning at the ghost town of Brooklyn, converts to a hike or bike trail only.

Looking forward to seeing you in Part Four of The New River Gorge!

Fred WolfePhotographs and text Copyright 2017

See more of Fred’s work at http://fredwolfe.Zenfolio.com or find him on Facebook at Wolfelight-Images and at http://www.facebook.com/fred.wolfe.98

6 thoughts on “The New River Gorge

  1. A strange combination of sadness and peace while looking over these photos. One can still imagine a much busier time both at the mines and on the rails. An excellent essay.

    1. Thank you Stu. In the ghost towns there remains so many small, personal things in the undergrowth. Flower gardens still bloom. It’s an amazing feeling to visit these places.

  2. Fred, what evocative images. The coke ovens built into the hill adjacent to trackside are a wonderful image of a time long ago that played a key role, among many others, in the growth of the nation. Thank you.

  3. These are fine images. However, I would like to inquire: did you obtain permission from CSX prior to trespassing on their right of way?

    1. Ted, this area is used by many hikers, kyackers and others who wish to enjoy the scenic New River Gorge. If you are planning a trip to the area, you will need to research for yourself where you may and may not go. Fred can chime in here, but The Trackside Photographer expects all its contributors to work in a responsible and safe manner.

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